In 1835 James Lancaster founded the optician firm of J. Lancaster for the manufacture of spectacles, large microscopes and telescopes. the original firm was located on Bull Street, Birmingham.
From approximately 1853 until 1907 the firm was located at 37 Colmore Row, Birmingham. Lancaster did not have a central factory, rather a series of individual shops that produced his camera.
In 1870, the company was managed by J. Lancaster's son, William James Lancaster.
In approximately 1871 The firms name was changed to include Mr Lancaster's son William James, and the new name was J. Lancaster & Son. It was around this time period that records indicate the Lancaster's were in the photographic business and W. J. recorded as a driving force of bringing hand photography to the public.
In 1879, the oldest reference we can find to the early Lancaster cameras is for the advertisement of two cameras, the Lancaster Pocket Camera which took 4 1/4 x 3 1/4 inch plates and the Lancaster Carte apparatus, a Gem camera with twelve lenses to shoot the same subject twelve times at once. Lancaster made its own lenses and had own shutter patents. An 1879 listing indicated a post office address for J. Lancaster & Son at 87 Bull Street. This may have been an origin of manufacture because only the Colmore Row address is mentioned in all ads.
In 1882 the firm introduced the Le Merveilleux and Le Meritoire and famous Instantograph camera.
In 1886 a unique pocket watch camera was introduced that became very popular.
In 1887, the company claimed to have sold 25,000 cameras.
In 1898, it was reported that J. Lancaster & Son was the worlds largest photographic apparatus manufacturer, with over 200,000 cameras sold.
In 1905 The company became a limited partnership and LTD was added to the name, J. Lancaster & son, LTD.
1907 J Lancaster and Son Ltd. moved to Camera Buildings, 275 Broad Street, Birmingham.
In 1925 W. J. Lancaster died.
In 1955 the firm ceased operations.
CLICK HERE for a listing of J. Lancaster & Sons cameras.
2007 Encyclopedia of nineteenth-century photography, Volume 1, John Hannavy
1900 Process: the photomechanics of printed illustration: Volume 7 - Page 160
1903 Photographic Dealer
1879 Post office directory of Birmingham
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